As usual this time of year in men’s college basketball, there are longshots galore to wager on as March Madness tips off.
Before the 2023 NCAA Tournament commenced on Tuesday night with a pair of play-in games, there were 18 schools listed at 1,000-to-1 odds (+100000) or longer to win the national title on betting boards at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and the Westgate SuperBook.
But even a handful of the current favorites to win the championship were available in the preseason at highly attractive odds. Take for instance: Marquette, a No. 2 seed. The Golden Eagles were offered early on at +15000 and went on to win the Big East regular-season title and conference tournament.
The Purdue Boilermakers, one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tourney, were early +6600 choices before winning the Big Ten regular-season and tournament crowns. Top overall seed Alabama had odds of +5000, and Texas, another second seed, was at +4000.
Thus, there surely will be folks with futures wagers on these squads and/or other longshots who will be tempted to do some hedge betting as the tournament progresses.
When Should March Madness Futures Bettors Start To Hedge?
A big question is when to start hedging in a tournament that goes six rounds. There is the danger of substantial financial losses by starting too soon and betting too much as your futures bet marches onward while eating your money.
Here are some rules of thumb about hedging offered by professional sports bettor, Bill Krackomberger. He is a former columnist for Gaming Today, was featured on Showtime’s sports betting docuseries, “Action,” and hosts a national radio show on Fox, “Countdown to Kickoff.” He is based in Las Vegas.
“If you’ve got a 1,000-to-1 shot, and they’re alive in the Elite 8, and you’ve bet something like $100, you’re saying to yourself, ‘I want to make some money off this,'” Krackomberger said. “Oh, my god, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ve got to do it.”
But even then, there are inherent dangers. Take the 2018 tournament, for example, when Sister Jean’s favorite team, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, made the Elite 8 at 1,000-to-1 odds (in a field bet).
In that quarterfinal round, Loyola was in a pick ’em game with Kansas State and won. Thus, a hedge bettor who had invested $100 on Loyola in the futures market and made an attempt to clear $1,000 by betting on KSU in a moneyline wager lost “only” a little more than $1,000. That left 99 percent of the bet’s value intact.
Also read: Current March Madness odds
Now in the semifinals against Michigan, it was a somewhat different story. In order to make that money back and still clear a grand, they’d have to bet more than $4,000 on the Wolverines in another moneyline wager.
Michigan did prevail, and hedge bettors rejoiced after wiping their collective brows and refilling their wallets.
Had Loyola won in that semifinal, those hedge bettors would have been in a big-time bind, for the Ramblers would have advanced to the final to face a Villanova squad that would have been a double-digit favorite. After all, who’s got $40,000 or so handy to put down on the Wildcats on a moneyline bet to recoup their lost loot? Probably only the bettors with the very deepest pockets who also didn’t have to put their kids through college.
“That’s the slippery slope when you are hedging,” Krackman said.
A key for bettors when dealing with such long shots is to stay one or two steps ahead of the bracket to determine whether their team would be a big, big underdog in an ensuing game, thus making another big moneyline bet out of reach.
But it’s a different ballgame when you have a team such as Purdue, which will no doubt will be a monster favorite in its opener on Friday and probably no worse than a small underdog as long as it’s alive. And since No. 1s are 147-1 vs. No. 16s in tournament history, the Boilermakers are a virtual lock to at least reach Round 2.
“I think even with Purdue and Marquette, and Alabama and Texas, maybe you can hedge in the Sweet 16, but you should probably wait till they get to the Elite 8,” Krackomberger said. “And no matter what, you always want to keep 50 percent of your (futures) bet alive and maybe only risk 20 percent of it on a first hedge.”
National Championship Prediction
So, which team is “Krackman” putting his money on to win the title?
“I’m going with (fifth-seeded) Duke,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “They’re 35-1 at DraftKings.”
He also had praise for second-seeded Arizona (+1500 FanDuel).
Live NCAA Tournament prices: 2023 March Madness Odds
Sometimes it Pays To Sit and Watch
Hedging nightmares occur in other sports, too. Just ask someone who had a giant longshot futures bet on the TCU Horned Frogs to win last season’s national football title.
On second thought, maybe don’t bring that up at all.
The Frogs were available at 500-to-1 odds in the offseason at the Westgate and were one of four teams that qualified for the College Football Playoff.
But what to do? What to do? Sit on your wallet in the semifinals and hope TCU keeps rolling? Or hedge?
Bettors who originally put $100 on the Frogs to take the title stood to make $50,000, so a moneyline wager on the unbeaten Michigan Wolverines at -330 seemed workable. So, in an attempt to win $1,000, a wager of $3,330 was needed. No sweat.
But when TCU won and advanced to the final, those hedge bettors were in a pickle. Had they anticipated a meeting between the Frogs and the defending champion and heavily favored Georgia Bulldogs, they would have realized that getting their money back on another hedge bet would have required a windfall. That’s because the Bulldogs wound up a -525 moneyline choice.
“In that case (in the semifinals), I probably would have bet only enough to at least get my money back on my original bet and maybe make about $200, and then bet no more than that,” Krackomberger said. “Then I still could have made another bet in the final.”